[Ppnews] Rod Coronado and how new laws are equating environmentalists with Al Qaeda

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 31 11:30:13 EDT 2007

The green scare


The story of Rod Coronado and how new laws are 
equating environmentalists with Al Qaeda

by Dean Kuipers

It's only appropriate, perhaps, that the future 
of the First Amendment takes shape in a hippie 
law office in San Francisco's North Beach 
district, surrounded by strippers. A light April 
rain falls on furtive patrons of the Lusty Lady 
and the Roaring 20s on the street below as 
legendary radical environmentalist Rodney 
Coronado sits in a conference room in the Pier 5 
Law Offices, strategizing with some of this 
country's finest civil-rights attorneys.

Coronado's no stranger to this scenario, having 
emerged only days before from his second stretch 
in federal prison, this time for eight months. He 
listens attentively, his dark Yaqui Indian 
heritage shining through as he munches on a 
veggie burrito. The glow on his fiancée Chrysta's 
face says everything you'd need to know about how 
good it is to be out. But the joy may be 
short-lived. Now Coronado is caught up in a 
prosecution he never could have foreseen and 
which has the environmentalist community, in 
particular, digging in for a long fight with the federal government.

That's because his alleged crime doesn't involve 
something he actually did. Rather, it only involves something he said.

In 2003, Coronado gave a public speech about 
animal rights in Hillcrest attended by about 100 
people and hosted by a vegetarian group. It was, 
he says, his "standard" speech at the time, 
talking about his own extreme efforts to protect 
wildlife, including a 1991-92 arson campaign 
against fur farms as an agent of the Animal 
Liberation Front (ALF), for which he served 57 
months in prison. During a Q&A period after the 
speech, someone asked him how he once made his 
incendiary devices. Having long retired from that 
kind of action, and having paid for it with 
prison time, he answered the question.

U.S. attorneys now say Coronado's brief 
response­the actual words themselves­is a federal 
crime. Not only that, it's terrorism.

And that word­"terrorism"­is new to the 
environmental movement when it comes to 
punishment for crimes. The word "eco-terrorist" 
was coined in 1982 by Ron Arnold, a prime mover 
in the anti-environmentalist "Wise Use Movement," 
but only recent laws make ecologically motivated 
speech a terrorist crime. The attorneys aren't 
even totally certain how it works. I ask the 
question, cognizant that Coronado and his fiancée 
are in the room, and opinions fly. Ben Rosenfeld, 
from the offices of famed attorney Dennis 
Cunningham, says the government's plea offer, 
which they turned down, was 21 months. Tony 
Serra, the silver-haired lion who is a resident 
of these offices and who has successfully 
championed everyone from Black Panther Huey 
Newton to the Hells Angels to Earth First!er Judi 
Bari, says he always figures the judge could go twice the offer, so 42 months.

But Jerry Singleton, the attorney who is 
defending Coronado's case in federal district 
court in San Diego, shakes his head.

"The government is holding out that there's this 
bogeyman," says Singleton, who is based in San 
Diego. "They're saying that the guidelines, which 
would put him at, I think, 18 years, would be the 
ones that apply. Those were post-9/11." That stuns the room for a minute.

"I don't think those sentencing guidelines are 
applicable in this case, not the way it's been 
charged," opines another Pier 5 attorney, Omar Figueroa.

"Well, there's an argument that they are," says 
Singleton, shooting a look at Coronado. "They're trying to use them."

Eighteen years would be a shocking sentence for a 
speech, even if Coronado were the only one facing 
time like this, but he's got company. Since 2005, 
the government has brought more than 20 cases 
against environmentalists that have not only 
redefined free speech, but also redefined 
environmentally motivated property 
destruction­like torching Hummers or tree-felling 
equipment­as being on a par with the murderous assaults of Al Qaeda.

On May 21, a federal judge in Oregon announced 
she was sentencing 10 animal activists there as 
"terrorists" for burning SUVs, among other 
crimes, under post-9/11 revisions of the federal 
sentencing guidelines that can add as much as 20 
years to a sentence if the crime was meant to 
coerce or influence the government. Singleton 
says he's not sure how this will apply to 
Coronado's case, since the Oregon defendants 
sentenced thus far have pleaded guilty to actual 
arson­not just talking about arson. But Lauren 
Regan, an attorney representing the defendants in 
the Oregon cases, says this landmark ruling has 
redefined terrorism, saying: "The unintended 
consequences of this judge's ruling is that 
anyone who damages property opens themselves up 
to a terrorism prosecution. They burned SUVs on a 
private car lot, never physically injuring 
anybody; to think that's equal to killing 168 
people in Oklahoma City is a stretch."

Twenty eco-radicals on trial might not sound like 
a lot, but it's almost as many as had been 
arrested for major crimes in the 18 years 
previous, while 1,200 known attacks by ALF or its 
younger twin, the Earth Liberation Front, caused 
as much as $200 million in damages. It is 
important to note that no persons have ever been 
injured or killed in these attacks, but industry 
lobbying groups have forced the government to 
make prosecuting them a top priority.

Environmentalists are calling it the "green 
scare," in reference to the "red scare" that 
characterized the hunt for communists during the 
McCarthy era. The wave of prosecutions have sent 
a shock through the part of the movement that 
engages in direct action, like activists 
bicycle-locking themselves to bulldozers.

In another case in New Jersey, six activists were 
given sentences as long as six years for running 
a website that posted information about vandalism 
attacks­without connecting them to the vandalism 
in any way. In the meantime, even the 
Democratic-controlled Congress keeps ratcheting 
up the laws, passing in November the Animal 
Enterprise Terrorism Act, which makes attacks 
against the profits of animal-based industries, once again, terrorism.

"You have to look at Rod's case in conjunction 
with the whole spate of vindictive cases that the 
government has been bringing against radical 
environmentalists, who the government carelessly 
lumps in with terrorists, and members of ELF or 
ALF and sometimes just anarchists," says 
Rosenfeld. "The government has been on record as 
admitting it's made a domestic priority out of 
going after this movement writ large."

True enough, the U.S. Department of Justice has 
said in congressional testimony since at least 
1999 that it considered ALF and ELF to be "top 
priorities" in the fight against domestic 
terrorism. But that has never included people who 
make animal-rights websites. Or widely published 
activist leaders like Coronado who make speeches. 
Until now. Rosenfeld says he's started to field 
concerned calls from other environmental groups.

"It is having a huge chilling impact on people," 
he adds. "The government has shown its 
willingness to go after people based purely on 
speech and ideology. People don't know anymore 
what they can safely even say, let alone what 
they can safely do. This is at complete variance 
with what most people believe is protected activity."

Boom! Just like that

The facts of what Rodney Coronado did and said in 
San Diego are not in dispute. On Aug. 1, 2003, he 
rose in the pre-dawn darkness at the offices of 
the Earth First! Journal in Tucson, where he was 
crashing, and boarded an early plane to San 
Diego. He was only 36 years old but could have 
been considered, even then, an elder spokesman of 
the radical movement, having been involved with 
groups like Earth First!, the Sea Shepherds and 
ALF since he was 18. He was met at the airport by 
David Agranoff, his host, then 29, who had 
invited him to speak that evening as one of a 
series of events Agranoff's vegan advocacy group 
was calling "Revolution Summer."

Despite the name, Agranoff and his cohorts were 
hardly the stuff of violent overthrow. Agranoff 
is a laughing, easygoing horror fiction writer 
and a teacher of kids with autism, and the four 
or five people in the group, including his wife, 
called themselves Compassion for Farm Animals. 
"Mostly what we did was pass out dairy-free ice 
cream in Balboa Park, maintain our website and do 
community potluck dinners. That was our terrorism," Agranoff chuckles.

And Coronado himself was, as he insists, retired 
from felony action. After finishing a long stint 
in prison in 1999, and having a son who needed 
his daddy, he was no longer available for 
fur-shop smashups or arson or other major 
offenses. He was, he says, satisfied with being a 
spokesman for the movement and maybe 
participating in marches or civil disobedience­nothing more.

Someone else in town, however, was using more 
hardcore tactics. Before Coronado's plane arrived 
in San Diego that morning, a huge blaze began at 
an unfinished, but controversial, 206-unit La 
Jolla condominium complex that caused $50 million 
in damages. Four hundred people had to be 
evacuated from nearby homes. A banner hung at the 
site read: "If you build it, we will burn it. The E.L.F.s are mad."

Agranoff and Coronado claim they never heard 
about the fire until around 6 p.m., when they 
went to The Center, a gay and lesbian community 
complex in Hillcrest, for the planned talk and 
were met there by reporters who filled them in. 
Coronado says he had "no goddamn idea" who 
started the fire but gave them some remarks about 
arson as a tactic. To one reporter, he said, "I 
would rather see an apartment complex burn to the 
ground than developers making money off the 
environment." The feds have never charged him with involvement in the fire.

"Anybody who did that arson knew that the last 
thing they should be doing was hanging out where 
I was," says Coronado. "Because they knew that 
the feds were going to be all over my shit."

Coronado assumes that agents regularly attended 
his talks, and it seems they did; agents later 
subpoenaed and questioned people who attended 
that lecture after allegedly recording their 
license plate numbers outside. But he made a 
practice of never toning down his lectures.

"I'm not going to sanitize my speeches for fear 
of throwing them a bone," he says. "Let them 
listen. I was pretty known for a standard lecture 
about animal and earth liberation, Deep Ecology, 
and then contexting it within my own personal 
experiences, with my own Native American heritage."

Coronado had delivered this talk scores of times, 
all over the world. In it, he recounted selected 
bits of his own history as examples of what he 
considered non-violent action in defense of 
threatened wildlife. He grew up as a middle-class 
kid in San Jose, hunting and fishing and learning 
about his Yaqui ancestry. But his 
monkey-wrenching became legendary in 1986, when 
he and another sailor from oceangoing radicals 
the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society sank two 
unmanned Icelandic whaling vessels in Reykjavik 
Harbor. Later, in 1989, he began a video 
investigation of fur farming with a partner, 
Jonathan Paul, the footage from which was used in 
a 60 Minutes segment. In 1990, he helped launch 
"Operation Bite Back," a sweeping campaign that 
torched fur farms and research laboratories in 
Oregon, Washington, Michigan and Utah, causing 
millions in damages. Eventually, after two years 
underground in mountain cabins and Indian 
reservations, Coronado was caught living on a 
Yaqui reservation outside Tucson and sentenced in 
1995 to 57 months in prison for burning a 
Michigan State University animal-research lab.

This was the apex of Coronado's life as an 
arsonist. Living on the lam and in prison, 
Coronado says, led him through a series of 
spiritual and strategic epiphanies. Over the 
years, his cast of personal heroes had expanded 
to include not only Gandhi and the Rev. Martin 
Luther King Jr., but also the Apache warrior 
Geronimo, but he knew armed resistance was not 
his destiny. He vowed, though, to always speak 
out in defense of wilderness and wildlife.

Agranoff says about 100 people were at the San 
Diego talk, and he was thrilled. "Usually, we'd 
get about 15 people. We'd publicized the hell out 
of this." It was a public event, and he didn't 
know most of the attendees. Finally, someone 
asked a question: How did you build the 
incendiary device you used in Michigan?

Coronado never missed a beat. He'd answered this 
before. Trying to recall his wording, he says 
now: "I was like, ‘Oh, well, I did this: I made a 
crude incendiary device'­and I walked over to a 
table where we had the food set up, grabbed an 
apple-juice jug, saying, "a device like this," 
and then I turned around, there was a chalkboard 
behind me, and I made a really brief line drawing 
of how an electronic circuit works: here's the 
battery, here's the timer, here's the igniter. 
And then you create a circuit, and that ignites 
underneath this [the jug, which would have been 
full of a mix of gasoline and motor oil] and­boom! Just like that."

Boom. Got that? No, evidently nobody else did, 
either, because no known person ever made a bomb 
from the instructions Coronado gave that night. 
The feds waited two and a half years to make sure 
and then arrested him anyway, in February 2006. 
Agranoff remembers the description as being even 
less detailed, saying Coronado never drew it on 
any chalkboard. "No, he didn't draw a diagram. He 
just kinda quickly answered the question and moved on," he says.

That night, Coronado hopped on a bus to Los 
Angeles to give another version of his standard 
speech at a big annual animal-rights conference. 
In San Diego, however, his words were lingering.

Criminalizing speech

Under 18 USC § 842(p)(2)(A), which was introduced 
by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and co-sponsored by Sen. 
Joseph Biden, "It shall be unlawful for any 
person to teach or demonstrate the making or use 
of an explosive, a destructive device, or a 
weapon of mass destruction, or to distribute by 
any means information pertaining to, in whole or 
in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, 
destructive device, or weapon of mass 
destruction, with the intent that the teaching, 
demonstration, or information be used for, or in 
furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a federal crime of violence."

That's the whole law under which Coronado is 
charged. It was meant to get bomb-making 
instructions off of the Internet, where they are 
widely available. The troubling word, here, 
though, is "intent." Ben Rosenfeld can't see how 
the government can claim Coronado intended anyone 
in San Diego to commit a federal crime. 
Commenting on Coronado's case in a widely 
distributed 2006 legal essay, he writes: "Make no 
mistake. This is a pure free speech case. 
Measured against any historic test of free 
speech, Coronado's behavior­that is to say, his 
speech­was alarmingly innocuous and uncriminal [his emphasis]."

Two days after the speech, Agranoff and his pals 
returned from a planned non-violent demonstration 
at a Norco dairy farm to find their van was gone 
and their house had been ransacked by the feds. 
Eventually, Agranoff and many others were dragged 
in front of a grand jury, which was convened to 
investigate the fire but which ended up mostly 
asking questions about Rod Coronado. Agranoff's 
house was raided again, this time when he was 
present, as was the home of another activist, 
Michael Cardenas, and the only things taken were 
videotapes of Coronado's speech. Neither tape, 
however, showed the question-and-answer period.

Agranoff and fellow activists Danae Kelly and 
Nicole Fink refused to speak to the grand jury 
and were jailed for about 80 days each on contempt charges.

"I'm perfectly willing to testify," says 
Agranoff, "because there's nothing I can say that 
would hurt Rod. But I'm not going to do it in a 
secret proceeding. They have to do this in open court."

San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam­who was later 
fired by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, which 
hasn't affected the case­announced Coronado's 
indictment on Feb. 22, 2006, in a press release 
that seemed to purposely conflate Coronado's 
speech and the fire he didn't commit.

"Teaching people how to build explosives in order 
to commit violent crimes is unacceptable in 
civilized society," she is quoted. This is 
followed by a quote from agent John Torres of the 
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and 
Explosives (ATF), who says, "When organizations 
such as ELF/ALF engage in these senseless acts of 
violence, it threatens us all. ATF will continue 
to aggressively pursue these types of cases and 
bring this type of criminal activity to a halt."

"What strikes me as being so wrong about this 
statute is that there's no requirement that there 
be any kind of agreement between the person 
furnishing the information and the listeners, 
either explicit or implicit," says Singleton. As 
such, he sees it as protected speech. In his 
view, it fails the historic test for incitement, 
which requires intent and/or imminent action.

There are only three exceptions to free speech, 
as carved out by the Supreme Court:

• "Fighting words"­the direct incitement to violence

• Obscenity

• The exception for "clear and present danger."

Ben Rosenfeld, in his essay on Coronado's case, 
feels none of these applies to this speech. In 
the case of "clear and present danger," for 
instance, he notes that Supreme Court Judge 
William Brandeis wrote: "If there be time to 
expose through discussion the falsehood and 
fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of 
education, the remedy to be applied is more 
speech, not enforced silence." In other words, if 
someone has time to think about the crime, the 
speech describing it does not represent a clear and present danger.

"[This is] really asking the court to outlaw a 
type of speech that has never been outlawed 
before," says Singleton. He filed a motion to 
throw out the Feinstein law as unconstitutional, 
but the judge declined earlier this year. "All 
the case law talks about is an individual having 
criminal liability for aiding and abetting in the 
commission of another substantive crime. Or if 
you are inciting violence to such a degree­crying 
‘fire' in a crowded theater­that harm is 
imminent. That's the Brandenburg test," Singleton adds.

If this statute stands, however, the government 
is saying the standards established by the 1969 
Supreme Court case, Brandenburg v. Ohio, are 
outflanked; no imminent crime is needed anymore. 
In fact, as in Coronado's case, no substantive 
crime need ever occur. It is, literally, a speech crime.

U.S. attorneys prosecuting Coronado's case are 
unable to comment on the question of intent, but 
the FBI's San Diego spokesperson, April Langwell, 
says via e-mail: "By definition, Domestic 
Terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use 
[emphasis hers], of violence by a group or 
. Mr. Coronado has the right to 
establish and organize an advocacy group
. He 
does not have the right to teach others how to 
instill fear and destroy property in our community."

Actually, he does. Or, at least, he used to.

"Certainly, the law has not changed since the 
Brandenburg case those many years ago," says 
James Wheaton, senior counsel with the First 
Amendment Project in Oakland. Although he 
cautions that free-speech cases are extremely 
detailed and one shouldn't generalize, he adds, 
"Mr. Coronado, if I understand it, made a speech 
in a public place and responded to a question. I 
think it will be difficult for them to establish 
that he, at the time he made that speech, 
intended that somebody act upon it immediately. 
And they will have to establish that."

The new terrorism

Coronado is finding out right now exactly how far 
the government is willing to go to make this case.

The sprawling Oregon case includes 65 different 
counts of arson and conspiracy related to 18 
different incidents of environmentally motivated 
sabotage in the Northwest, and charged to 13 
defendants, plus two other related defendants 
charged in Washington state. All but one of the 
incidents were attacks on private property or 
companies, not government facilities. Jonathan 
Paul, for instance, is charged with being the 
lookout at a fire that burned a horse 
slaughterhouse in 1997. Another activist, Suzanne 
"India" Savoie, allegedly served as a lookout for 
a 2001 fire that gutted the offices of a lumber mill.

"This is the first time in the history of the 
United States that the federal government is 
seeking this enhancement for property crimes that 
did not result in injury or death to humans­to 
equate property destruction with terrorism," says Lauren Regan.

The sentencing enhancements, Regan explains, were 
never intended for this purpose. Add-ons of up to 
20 years were available in cases of international 
terrorism but then extended to domestic acts 
after the Oklahoma City bombing by the 1996 
Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. 
Still, the added time pertained to acts that 
caused bodily injury or death to humans, or 
threatened federal infrastructure like the power 
grid or waterways. That all changed with the 2001 
USA Patriot Act. Under that law, a judge may add 
decades if "the offense was calculated to 
influence or affect the conduct of government" or 
"was calculated to intimidate or coerce a civilian population."

If these enhancements apply to acts of 
private-property destruction­or, in the case of 
Coronado, merely talking about how property is 
destroyed­what, then, are the limits of 
"influence"? Protests, another form of talking, 
are meant to "influence" the government. So is 
democratic debate. What if Oprah goes on a 
campaign for cruelty-free cosmetics?

"When everyone is a terrorist, no one is," says 
Regan. "The further we broaden the language of 
what a true terrorist is, the less security we 
really do have. If a monkey-wrencher is the same 
as Osama bin Laden, where is the distinction drawn?"

Jerry Singleton and other attorneys agree with 
her but worry about the political climate. These 
Oregon cases, as well as Coronado's, have been 
orchestrated by a Bush administration starved for 
political victories. The prevailing thought is 
that at least one of these cases will go to the 
Supreme Court, where its reception is wholly uncertain.

The first cases to get that far might be the New 
Jersey cases, which involved six activists who 
called themselves Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, 
or SHAC, and who openly sought to put the major 
animal-testing corporation, Huntingdon Life 
Sciences, out of business. Their crime consisted 
of putting the time and location of legal 
protests and personal information about company 
employees on a website. Several of the employees 
were victims of irritating vandalism, including 
having their windows smashed and even cars 
overturned­but none of these acts were connected 
to the SHAC defendants themselves. They were committed by persons unknown.

SHAC's attorney, Andrew Erba, was stunned last 
September, when the activists were given 
sentences of up to six years in federal prison 
under the 1992 Animal Enterprise Protection Act.

"The truth is, if you carry this forward, this 
logic, almost any group that does activist 
activities, particularly using the Internet, is 
in terrible shape," says Erba. "The government 
took the position that the various postings on 
the website
 incited people to take action. But, 
absent the proof of imminent action, you really 
can't just prosecute ideas. It's unconstitutional."

"Now, they've just criminalized running an 
above-ground campaign," says Jerry Vlasak, a 
trauma surgeon and spokesman with the North 
American Animal Liberation Press Office, who does 
exactly what Coronado has done for years: talk to 
the press. "All this is going to do is drive 
people underground. And chances are [they] won't get caught for that."

Test case: Sherman Austin

Sherman Austin is the only person who has been 
jailed under the statute being used against 
Coronado. On Jan. 24, 2002, when he was 18 years 
old, he was napping at the Sherman Oaks home he 
shared with his single mom, his twin sister and 
his brother, when FBI and Secret Service agents 
with assault rifles drawn swarmed the house. They 
were looking for the computers that held Austin's website, Raisethefist.com.

Austin is a bright, dreadlocked African-American 
kid who was politicized by meeting lots of 
anti-corporate anarchists protesting L.A.'s 
Democratic National Convention in 2000. Austin 
says he's neither a "green" nor a "red" 
anarchist, and it's just as correct to call him a 
socialist or "libertarian socialist." One look at 
his website would reveal that his image of the 
anarchist is one engaged in liberation struggles 
like those of the Zapatistas in Chiapas; plus 
there is lots of info on L.A. area 
police-brutality cases like the videotaped 
beating of 16-year-old African American Donovan 
Chavez in Inglewood. The imagery on the site is 
pretty sensationalistic­it looks a lot like Fox 
News. He also used to offer free hosting for 
other activists. One of them posted a document called the Reclaim Guide.

The guide was an amateurish manual prepared for a 
protest against the International Monetary Fund 
that never happened because of 9/11. The entirety 
of its "smoke bomb" recipe, for example, reads: 
"Mix 4 parts sugar with 6 parts salt peter. Heat 
this over a low flame until it melts, stirring 
well. Pour into a container. When pouring place a 
few wooden matches into it for a fuse. About a 
pound of this will smoke up an entire block."

"I looked at the Reclaim Guide but never thought 
much of it," says Austin. "It didn't seem like it 
was that big of a deal. You could get this kind 
of information at any number of white supremacist and neo-Nazi websites."

Instead of warning Austin to remove the material, 
the FBI had him and his family under surveillance 
for months. Then, in August 2002, federal 
prosecutors began offering him a plea deal on 18 
USC § 842(p)(2)(A). Austin's mother, Jennifer 
Martin Ruggiero, was astonished at the 
government's attempt to turn her son into a terrorist.

"I don't care about anarchism. He can be an 
anarchist," Martin says. "I care about violence. 
And I know Sherman is non-violent. That's part of his politics."

Weeks before any plea negotiations began, the FBI 
interviewed the kid who actually wrote and posted 
the Reclaim Guide, a white teenager from Orange 
County. In his FBI interviews, he admitted the 
work was his. But the feds called Austin the "author" anyway.

"I told the FBI at least seven different times 
when they questioned me at my house, if I'd 
authored this information, and I told them no," says Austin.

A federal probation officer preparing 
pre-sentencing reports on Austin's case assured 
his public defender that the federal terrorism 
sentencing guidelines would not apply, so Austin 
opted for a trial. After months of haggling, 
however, the government seemed to get peeved. The 
probation officer did a new pre-sentencing report 
and announced that the terror guidelines would, 
indeed, apply and could add 15 to 20 years to his 
sentence. Austin signed the plea. The judge then 
broke the plea agreement and gave him a year in 
prison, where he had to be isolated after 
receiving persistent death threats from the Aryan Brotherhood.

"That's what it's all about­free speech," says 
Austin. "Because if it was just about explosives, 
they'd have plenty of other websites to go after. 
I mean, Raisethefist.com wasn't a website you'd 
go to if you wanted to know how to build a bomb."

No. For that, you'd probably go to The Anarchist 
Cookbook, which is available every day on that radical website, Amazon.com.

Get a new spokesman

Hours after meeting the lawyers, Coronado sits in 
a late-night Berkeley coffee shop, wishing 
Chrysta hadn't heard that bit about getting more years in prison.

"Part of me didn't want Chrysta to hear it," he 
says. "To have me back now, after eight hard 
months in prison, and to be hearing another 
possible three or four years­or more­and only a 
few months from now. That's hard to hear."

The case against him is "a stretch," he says. 
"But at the same time," he adds, "I've already 
been convicted of two past, quote, 
‘ecoterrorism'-related offenses. The last thing I 
want to do is be talking to the jury about how I didn't do this third thing."

His second felony offense was something of a 
fluke, but it has put the fear into Coronado. In 
keeping with his plan to only do 
civil-disobedience-like actions, Coronado has 
been keeping a low profile in Tucson and not even 
acting as a spokesman anymore. In 2003, he was 
helping to organize a chapter of Earth First! in 
Tucson when he participated in the dismantling of 
a mountain lion trap in popular Sabino Canyon 
park, believing this was a misdemeanor offense. 
Because the federal government considers him a 
serious threat, however, they re-jiggered the 
prosecution into a felony and sent him away for 
eight months. At his trial, Assistant U.S. 
Attorney Wallace Kleindienst argued that Coronado 
"is a danger to the community
. I know he wasn't 
tried here for being a violent anarchist. This 
trial wasn't about Rod Coronado being a terrorist, but he is one."

He got out of prison again just in time to take 
his 5-year-old son to the ritual deer dances on 
the Pascua Yaqui reservation south of Tucson. His 
priority now, he says, is to take care of that 
boy and Chrysta's 4-year-old daughter, and while 
he knows the younger hotheads in the movement 
might dismiss him as a sellout, he's hoping 
they'll offer him one final gesture of respect and find a new spokesman.

"I don't want to do that role anymore," he says 
of eco-radicalism. "I would like to see that 
people understand that the struggle for me is 
about simpler things. The greatest goal of my 
revolution now is simply to have a family! Ha-ha! 
If I can't make real, in my own life, my 
principles and beliefs, then what chance is there 
of them ever expanding outward to the greater world?"

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<mailto:editor at sdcitybeat.com>editor at sdcitybeat.com.


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